When Leading Means Disappointing People (and Other Fear of Man Issues)

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Leading is an intricate dance between love and discomfort. It’s the constant wondering of what people think, the unspoken desire to please those we guide, and the simultaneous need to make decisions that might stir discomfort. This internal tug-of-war is not just a leadership challenge; it’s a deeply personal journey. 

As women leaders, we find ourselves grappling with the fear of man, eager to foster unity but often realizing that true leadership requires choices that might be met with resistance. If you are finding yourself on an endless cycle of doubt, insecurity, and second guessing, here are a few reminders to help you navigate the tension and move forward. 

Making Tough Decisions with Purpose

No leader can meet everyone’s expectations. I think I should state that again: No leader can meet everyone’s expectations. As a leader, our job is to assess what our people need, pray for wisdom as we shepherd them, and take them forward. Most of the people that we lead will be a mix of change-resistors to change-lovers. We must listen well, assess the positives and negatives, and then move them toward the greater mission and purpose of your ministry’s vision. The purpose isn’t rooted in making people happy, but making people holy. 

Resilience as a Leadership Skill

Resilience is a skill we all need to build. Acknowledging disappointments as part of the leadership landscape helps us bounce back with grace. You will not always lead the meeting with patience and understanding. Sometimes you will wish you had done it a different way. Most often you will wish you said it differently or with different timing. Leadership doesn’t mean you have to do all things perfectly, but it does mean navigating disappointments with a teachable and determined spirit. 

Grounding Identity in Truth

Our identity as women leaders is anchored in our faith and in the nature of God rather than solely in our capabilities. The Bible introduces us to numerous men and women who faced insecurities, struggled with past sins, and encountered challenging circumstances, yet God utilized them despite their weaknesses and flaws. This becomes the litmus test of our confidence—whether it rests in our abilities or in the One who has gifted those abilities to us. 

Transparent Communication for Understanding

Effective leadership involves transparent communication. Explaining the reasoning behind our decisions fosters a deeper understanding within our community. Transparent communication isn’t about being flowery but about being clear and open, creating a space for unity amid diverse perspectives. I have learned that many of the instances where I have failed to communicate well often have led to negative outcomes and a breakdown in trust. 

Learning and Growing from Feedback

Feedback is a valuable tool for growth. Approaching feedback with a practical mindset allows us to learn and improve continually. It’s not about taking everything to heart but extracting insights that contribute to the ongoing refinement of our leadership skills. Asking myself questions like: could I have communicated this sooner or differently?; what conversations did I have that helped me to hear points of anxiety or concern and how to respond?; or how could I include more collaborative voices and perspectives next time to improve major changes? Feedback not only helps us hone our skills, but it helps us know our people–and when we know them, we can lead them. 

If we are leading well, we will be disappointing people. It involves making tough decisions, embracing disappointments, and overcoming the inclination to please everyone. As we navigate this journey, let’s prioritize the mission, cultivate resilience, ground ourselves in faith, communicate transparently, and view feedback as a tool for growth. In doing so, we not only lead authentically but also continue to point people to the God who is faithful, good, and working even in the seasons of discomfort and change for His glory and our good.

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